A Major #Fail


National Organization for Marriage

Dear Marriage Supporter,

Despite being grammatically incorrect, our culture has officially made the verb "fail" into a noun, and the expression seems here to stay.

It pops up on social media all the time: a major political gaffe or celebrity embarrassment, for example, is labeled a major #fail, as occurred at the recent Oscar ceremony with John Travolta's unfortunate pronunciation of artist Idina Menzel's name. Well, just a few days ago we witnessed a huge #fail of much more consequence in our national public discourse on marriage and religious liberty, and that's the top headline in this week's marriage news.

Hate and Ignorance Always Go Hand-in-Hand

It's axiomatic that hatred is born of misunderstanding and ignorance. This is true of personal hatred, but it's also true of ideological enmity and the hatred of an idea.

Over the past two weeks media elites, politicians, activists, and opinion writers were climbing over one another to reach the heights of histrionics in their expression of hatred for a bill in Arizona: SB 1062, a bill that aimed to clarify the state's existing statutory religious liberty protections.

The bill was unfortunately vetoed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Wednesday of last week, who caved to the pressures being leveraged by those screaming misinformation and lies all over the media.

National Review editor Rich Lowry penned a piece for Politico magazine entitled "Brewer's Foolish Veto" in which he notes how "[t]he bill was the subject of a truly awe-inspiring tsunami of poorly informed indignation."

Lowry goes on:

If you'll excuse a brief, boring break from the hysteria to dwell on the text of the doomed bill, it stipulated that the word "person" in the law applies to businesses and that the protections of the law apply whether or not the government is directly a party to a proceeding (e.g., a lawsuit brought on anti-discrimination grounds).

Eleven legal experts on religious freedom statutes — who represent a variety of views on gay marriage — wrote a letter to Gov. Brewer prior to her veto explaining how the bill "has been egregiously misrepresented by many of its critics."

The utter deluge of misinformation that, to use Lowry's term, "doomed" the bill in Arizona was really unprecedented. It was a picture out of Orwell's 1984, like the scene of the "Two Minutes Hate," when everyone in Oceana is forced to watch a film and express their hatred of the enemies of Big Brother — even though no one really knows why they're expected to have such hatred.

As Lowry notes, "For critics of the Arizona bill, the substance was almost an afterthought. They recoiled at the very idea that someone might have moral objections to homosexuality or gay marriage" [emphasis added].

The bill's critics seemed to have not even taken the time to read it before issuing their condemnations; or, if they did read it, they made the deliberate and conscious decision to willfully misunderstand it.

Ryan Anderson, at The Foundry blog, explains more about the major #fail of the media in approaching this bill [emphasis added]:

The headline reads "A License to Discriminate." And the New York Times editorial board goes on to claim that Arizona has just passed "noxious measures to give businesses and individuals the broad right to deny services to same-sex couples in the name of protecting religious liberty." The Times got it wrong. The proposed legislation never even mentions same-sex couples; it simply clarifies and improves existing state protections for religious liberty. And as the multitude of lawsuits against the coercive HHS mandate and the cases of photographers, florists and bakers show, we need protection for religious liberty now more than ever.

Ryan boils his argument down to very simple points that one would think could be understood even by the Twittering classes eating up drivel like the Times editorial. "What the Times dubs "discrimination" is in actuality simply liberty," Ryan writes. And, "Freedom is a two way street. [...][I]t requires allowing others to do or not do things that we might choose differently for ourselves."

Another lengthy exposition of the bill and a clearing of the air of the manifest confusions surrounding it was laudably attempted by The Christian Post, but perhaps the authors gave too much credit to the bill's critics by thinking they actually wanted to think through the matter and reason about it.

The Orwellian groupthink had too strong a hold to be penetrated by such insights. Even the well-reasoned opinions of a cadre of eminent legal scholars couldn't disabuse Governor Brewer of her misunderstanding which led her to veto the bill, when they urged her: "Whatever judgment you pass on SB 1062, you should not be misled by uninformed critics."

Misled she was, and so SB 1062 has suffered defeat. But religious liberty has suffered the real blow here: and the many bakers, photographers, florists and others who provide wedding services in Arizona woke up last week to weakened protections of their most basic first amendment rights.

Some Folks Governor Brewer Should Meet

At The Foundry, Kelsey Harris put together a special piece entitled, "Four Businesses Whose Owners Were Penalized for Their Religious Beliefs." She explained that, amidst the debate of SB 1062, it was worth taking some time to "look... back at some of the ways that religious beliefs have come under attack in the public square in recent years."

She covers the cases of Elaine Photography, Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and Arlene's Flowers: all examples of those who have been targeted because of their religious values and subjected to harassment by gay activists because they declined to celebrate same-sex 'weddings.'

I say "celebrate," because I think that's the most respectful way to refer to what wedding service providers do. Often, these folks are in the business they're in because they appreciate the joy weddings bring: they enjoy celebrating along with the couples they serve and celebrating the good of marriage.

These people are artists, too. Anyone who has seen one of the many TV shows about bakers knows the amazing gifts and talents involved in that form of art, and anyone who compared their wedding photo album to their own holiday shots can appreciate the huge difference.

This raises a very common sense question that isn't brought up a lot in these debates: can good art be compelled and forced under duress? And even if it could, is that what anyone would really want? Who but a dictator could enjoy a wedding cake made under duress?

Yet the same-sex 'marriage' activists who target these businesses (when surely there are other providers available to them who might not have the same religious objections) want to compel these people to use their artistic gifts and talents to celebrate 'marriages' against their consciences and in violation of deeply held beliefs! And now Governor Brewer, with her veto, has in some ways sanctioned the courts to assist these activists in compelling such people's participation!

No More #Fails Moving Forward

As the marriage movement goes forward, there are three things we need to do in order to stop these kinds of failures in public discourse:

  1. We need to focus on the faces and the stories of the people who are really affected by the fallout of marriage redefinition.

  2. We need to elect better public servants and hold them accountable, and not consent to be crowded out of the conversation.

  3. We need to educate ourselves, our friends, and our families as to the truth of the debate and not be cowed by the histrionics of the other side.

Last week in Texas a federal judge ruled that State's marriage amendment unconstitutional. The judge immediately stayed his own decision and now it will move forward for appeals. We are hopeful that this decision — along with similar results in numerous states — will be overturned on appeal. Imposing same-sex 'marriage' is wrong as a matter of law, and it is wrong as a matter of policy. Just last year, the US Supreme Court ruled that marriage has customarily been the purview of the states and the federal government must respect that judgment. Yet federal judges are grossly twisting the Court's ruling in an unprecedented show of judicial activism bent on redefining marriage to suit their own wishes. The higher courts must put a stop to this.

The federal judiciary should keep in mind stories like the ones cited above: the stories about the bakers, and photographers, and florists who are sued, fined, punished and put out of business merely for standing for the age-old understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

We ordinary citizens — marriage champions like yourself — also need to stay familiar with those stories and help to put a human face on the issue when it comes up in debate. The other side relies on smokescreens of misinformation and abstraction, as last week's events have shown.

The best tool we have to cut through that misinformation is the human touch of stories such as these that reveal the complete lack of tolerance for any views that dissent from those of our adversaries. People need to understand the stakes in defending marriage aren't just abstract ideals. People's lives and livelihoods have already suffered very real affects from the push to redefine marriage, and their stories must be told.

Finally, we need to expect more from our public servants — that they represent everyone and not just the interests of a small and powerful (and well-funded) few.

Curbing the Lawlessness

My good friend, Reverend William Owens, president and founder of the Coalition of African American Pastors, last week issued a call for the impeachment of Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder made news for advising state attorneys general to abandon the defense of their states' marriage laws!

It's absolutely infuriating that our nation's highest law enforcement official would not only violate his own oath of office and abandon the rule of law, but that he would go so far as to urge his counterparts at the state level to follow suit!

Can you imagine what the huge outcry would be if a conservative Attorney General were to advise that certain environmental laws should no longer be defended? There would be cries from the left of a constitutional crisis! Yet because Holder is urging state officials to ignore state marriage laws that the media and the left don't like, Holder's utter lawlessness is applauded.

Reverend Owens is seeking to garner signatures for Holder's impeachment so that Congress will take notice — and I urge you to go add your signature to the petition right away!

We deserve better from our public officials — and we must demand it. The time has come to stand up and speak out.

Write a letter to the editor, call your local station's news hotline, visit your federal legislator's local district offices. Most importantly, ask your elected officials what their position on marriage is and then hold them accountable!

These are the grassroots actions we need more and more citizens to start doing so that we can turn our public discourse from a major #fail to a big #win!


Brian S. Brown

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Copyright 2014